The construction of the National Road took place majorly between 1811 and 1834 in other to extent to the settlements in the west. It was the first federally funded road in U.S. history. Land investors understood the importance of road network in the west and as such a group which George Washington was a key figure pushed for the building of roads to unify the country. By 1806, President Jefferson signed into law an act that would bring this dream to reality. This road was expected to unify Cumberland, Maryland till the Ohio River.
After several bids for the contract, the construction of the National Road contract was first awarded in 1811 the first contract was awarded. Work began and construction was completed in stages in a space of over four decades. By 1818 the first section of the road was built from Cumberland to Wheeling. $6,000 was estimated as the initial cost of the road per mile. Around the years 1830s, the responsibility to run the roads was handed over to the states by the federal government which led to building of tollgates but the responsibility of road repairs was still in the neck of the federal government.
The construction of the National Road paved way for increase and development of settlements. As the traditional villages and town became opened to the world, some of these roads such as Cumberland Road became the Main Street in these settlements. The popularity of the National Road reached its peak in 1825 when song, story, poetry and painting were used to celebrate its emergence. As time went on, explorers, westward bound jam-packed the hotels and roadhouses along the road.
The introduction of railroads in the 1870s faded the popularity of National Road but this was soon reversed as Federal Aid became readily obtainable for maintenance and improvements of the road for automobiles to ply the route. This sprouted the development of the road as a coast-to-coast highway in 1926.
Some of the bridges on the National Road are historic. The Stone Bridge was so named due to its due to its design as a single structure of arch stone. The stone Casselman River Bridge which stands to the east of Grantsville, Maryland was built between 1813 and 1814. Its 80-foot span which connects Cumberland to Ohio River, is the largest of its kind in America.
Vandalia, Illinois was the stopping point for National Road in 1852. Though many wished it was extended to Mississippi River and beyond, the road became a victim of ‘power tussle’ over responsibility, maintenance, improvements, and legal clarification.
In general, the National Road was able to fulfill its dual role in aiding the economy by fast tracking the transportation of goods and also promoting trade nationwide. With ease, manufactures from the east were able to find their way to the west for closer business ties and expansion. The road helped the nation expand while drawing it closer together.